May Day protesters on the move in Manhattan, force Guggenheim to close early

NEW YORK -- About 1,000 protesters decrying police brutality marched in Manhattan Friday at a May Day rally that took on a new message amid national outrage over a Baltimore man's death in police custody.

Days after over 140 demonstrators' arrests in New York spurred complaints about police conduct, participants streamed through blocked-off streets, bearing signs with such messages as "Disarm the NYPD" and "Justice for Freddie Gray," the 25-year-old who died in Baltimore. The march came hours after Baltimore's top prosecutor announced charges against six officers in his death from a broken neck.

The news made Destiny Glenn, a 19-year-old college student, all the more determined to attend the march that began in New York's Union Square.

"I'm very upset, and I'm tired of police brutality," Glenn said. "Lives are being disregarded. It's just stunning."

Like other May Day rallies around the country, the New York demonstration was initially planned to champion workers' and immigrants' rights but expanded its focus in the wake of Gray's death.

Aieche Boutantone said she was there to support immigrants, saying some who are in the country illegally are unfairly targeted by police and then deported.

"We're fighting against the criminalization of our community," Boutantone said. She added she was there to support demonstrators in Baltimore: "Because it can happen to any of us."

Chanting "the whole damn system is guilty as hell. Resist. Rebel," and "throw killer cops in jail," protesters headed downtown from Union Square in streets that police had blocked off to accommodate the march.

At least one man was arrested after he tried to jump over a police barricade from the march area to a side of the road that was being kept clear.

Around Noon on Friday, dozens of protesters stormed into the Guggenheim Museum.

The Guggenheim was forced to close early at 2 p.m. due to the on-going protest inside. The museum doesn't normally close until 5:45 p.m.

Activists were protesting labor exploitation of migrant laborers at building sites for a Guggenheim outpost on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi.

Protestors opened a parachute inside the atrium that read "Meet Workers Demands Now!"

There were also red and blue leaflets thrown from the museum's upper levels.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation released a statement saying,"We are disappointed that the actions of today's demonstrators forced the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum to close its doors and turn away thousands of members of the public.

"We have met with representatives of the group behind today's demonstration on several occasions and have tried to maintain open lines of communication. We share their concerns about worker welfare in the Gulf Region, but these kinds of disruptive activities run counter to our objective of building the cooperation and goodwill necessary to further change on an extremely complex geopolitical issue.

"Despite erroneous reports to the contrary, construction of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi has not yet begun and a contractor has not yet been selected. In preparation for these milestones, the Guggenheim has been working with our partner, the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), and other authorities and stakeholders inside and outside of the UAE to continue to advance progress on conditions for workers.

"The Guggenheim seeks, as we have from the start, to advance meaningful and verifiable actions. This is evidenced by our continuing contributions to the TDIC Employment Practices Policy (EPP). Significant and documented progress has been made on a number of fronts, including worker accommodation, access to medical coverage, grievance procedures, and retention of passports.

"We believe the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi project presents an opportunity for a dynamic cultural exchange and to chart a more inclusive and expansive view of art history. These efforts at real action will take time to become a reality on the ground. We understand that this endeavor comes with great responsibility and we believe strongly in the transformative potential of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi."

Elsewhere, the procession generally went calmly until a brief standoff when protesters demanded that officers open a barricade on a lower Manhattan street; police were routing them down a different street. After a few minutes, they decided to stay inside the barricades and move on.

Some activists and elected officials criticized the New York Police Department's handling of protests Wednesday over Gray's death, saying police were overly aggressive while arresting more than 140 people. Police had told marchers that they should stay on a sidewalk and in a prescribed area; arrests were made after some demonstrators splintered off, trying to get on a highway and block tunnel entrances.

Ahead of Friday's demonstration, Police Commissioner William Bratton said officers would try to be flexible, up to a point.

"We're more than willing to work with them and just allow them to get their point across - but work with us, not against us."

If necessary, "we'll step in appropriately," he said.

To activists, Wednesday's arrests were a startling turnaround from the city's handling of days of protests in December after a grand jury declined to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. Then, protesters walked freely in streets and shut down some of Manhattan's main thoroughfares.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday there had been no fundamental change in the NYPD's approach to demonstrators: "We won't tolerate illegality. We won't tolerate disorder," he said.

May Day demonstrators also gathered outside the Manhattan home of Walmart heiress Alice Walton before rallying at a nearby plaza.
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